Monday, June 19th is Juneteenth. Officially made a national holiday in 2021, the day is in acknowledgment of the emancipation of enslaved Africans in America.
In honor of Juneteenth, this lesson provides resources for celebrating, teaching, and learning about Black History. While this is important every day, it is of even greater importance as we witness the erasure of aspects of American History and the role of Black people within it.
Pre-Circle Resources & Sharing
If needed, share with students an introductory history of Juneteenth (additional resources can be found at the end of this lesson), and invite a share out of any reflections.
Introduce Curricular/Legislative Bans
Share with students some resources from BET, NPR, and Axios on proposed and current legislation limiting and/or banning what can be taught in schools, particularly regarding American and Black history, DEI, politics, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Consider inviting students to share, in circle or popcorn-style:
- What thoughts or reactions do you have to the materials we read?
If students seem interested, you may want to encourage further reading and discussion at a later point.
Open up a circle with a quote related to the importance and relevance of history. Invite students to share reflections and connections related to the quote. Some quote options might be:
- “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey
- “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” – Maya Angelou
- “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” – Edmund Burke
Using a circle speaking order, invite students to consider the value of their own family/community history in response to one or more of the following prompts:
- What aspects of your family’s/community’s history do you treasure?
- Which of your family’s/community’s stories do you most want to share?
- In an effort to preserve your family’s/community’s culture and history: Who can you share a special family story with today (i.e. a younger sibling, cousin, partner, friend, etc.)?
- Share about a family/community tradition that you value/appreciate.
- Father’s Day and Juneteenth share the same weekend. In honor of this, share about a Black man in your life who has positively impacted you, and how.
Share a closing quote with students, possibly one of the following:
- “The lovers of romance can go elsewhere for satisfaction, but where can the lovers of truth turn if not to history?” – Katharine Anthony
- “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- “History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” – David McCullough
- “You can’t be a full participant in our democracy if you don’t know our history.” – David McCullough
- “Study the past if you would define the future.” – Confucius
- “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.” – Harry S. Truman
Extended Learning Activity
- Invite students to consider the relationship between the 4th of July and Juneteenth by way of the excerpted or full Frederick Douglass speech, "What to the Slave is the 4th of July?"
- Unused quotes from the closing ceremony can be used for further discussion, writing, or journaling prompts.
- Engage students in exploring and discussing efforts to limit or ban discussions of history and identity in classrooms.
Additional Juneteenth Resources
NMAACH - The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth
NY Times - So You Want to Know About Juneteenth
NYC Juneteenth Events
- Brooklyn Museum Juneteenth Jubilee
- 14th Annual Kaleidoscope of Culture 3-Day Event
- Prospect Park: Lefferts Historic House Juneteenth Caribbean Day
- Historic Weeksville Heritage Center Juneteenth Food Festival
- Breuklyn Juneteenth Family Fun Day
- Wyckoff House Museum Juneteenth Farmhouse Family Day
- 651 Arts & The Soapbox Juneteenth Event
- Carnegie Hall Juneteenth Celebration
- Good Vibes in the Park